Ontario’s Office of the Fire Marshall is investigating the fatal house fire in Weenusk First Nation – which claimed the life of a 10-year-old late last month.
The fire broke out at the Wabano household on January 28. Ten members of the family were inside the home at the time, but 10-year-old JC was not able to make it out. The remainder of the family lost everything and has been relocated to the community’s band office for now.
The Office of the Fire Marshall says their investigation began on January 31 and will continue.
Indigenous Services Canada says a variety of support have been sent to the community, including a nurse to support the nursing station, additional paramedics and transportation, as well as mental wellness supports – in response to the tragic situation.
“ISC recognizes that incidents like this profoundly impact the entire community,” wrote staff, in a prepared statement.
“Our thoughts are with all community members, particularly with family members and First Nation leaders who worked so hard to respond to this tragic event. We will continue to provide support to the community in critical fire safety prevention, education and protection work,” they add.
Ottawa has also already approved $506,640 in funding for the community to purchase a new fire truck – which is expected to be delivered next month. The feds also provide $10,000 annually to train volunteers.
This comes as Timmins-James Bay MP Charlie Angus stressed the tragedy may have been prevented if Weenusk First Nation had any access to firefighting equipment or services.
Angus says he wrote to the Minister of Indigenous Services, Patty Hajdu, about Weenusk’s lack of firefighting equipment in 2021, but says he didn’t receive a response. Now, he stressed the government needs to come to the table with a new commitment to the community.
As of the time of writing, a GoFundMe campaign for the Wabano family has reached over $45,000 towards its $50,000 goal. The Weeneebayko Area Health Authority has also been collecting clothing donations for the family at their head office in Moosonee.
The community of Peawanuck is a remote fly-in Cree community on the west coast of Hudson Bay in the Kenora District, with a reported population of about 300 on-reserve members.